My life in travel - Jodie Whittaker

'Hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand was extraordinary'

Actress Jodie Whittaker starred in the BBC series 'Broadchurch' this year. She has teamed up anti-poverty charity ActionAid for its Christmas appeal to encourage people to sponsor a child (actionaid.org.uk/child).

First holiday memory?

Going to Benidorm when I was three. I've never been back. I remember it was my first vivid memory of feeling fear, because I fell into the pool and my dad had to rescue me. I don't know what Benidorm's like now, but judging by the television series it looks similar.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

The place I love most is probably the Yorkshire Moors, near where I grew up. They're so bleak, no one ever thinks of them as beautiful. But for me, the associated literature, art and poetry give it the credit it deserves. It was a beautiful place to have as your back garden.

Best holiday?

Going backpacking by myself when I was 18. I set off alone for six months and then a friend joined me. I started in LA, did two months around the west coast of North America from Tijuana to Vancouver and back to work at a hostel in Flagstaff, Arizona. I then flew to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, for my first Christmas away from home, and on to New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Everybody is so desparate to act like a local, but I think the best thing about travelling is being a tourist – seeing things through brand new eyes and asking questions. The best experiences I've had have been because I've said yes to a bus trip that could, potentially, have been horrendous.

Ideal travelling companion?

Lonely Planet guidebooks. I don't go anywhere without one. I'm currently filming in Lithuania and I've got one, even though I don't have much time off. I love the way they are laid out and get panicky if it's not the Lonely Planet brand.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

All three. In Thailand, I stayed in Koh Pha Ngan lying on the beach in paradise for six weeks. In Vilnius, I've walked around every museum there is. And, even though I'm 31 now and I have a more nervous streak than I used to, I've still skydived, bungee jumped and been white-water rafting.

Greatest travel luxury?

Portable loudspeakers, because I love my music. I would never be that person playing loud music on the beach, but there are some places with no one else around, where you can lie down, chill out and listen to your own music. It means I have an associated song for every place in the world I've visited.

Holiday reading?

American classics. I read Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls when I was in Jordan and Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath on another trip. In Lithuania, I've just finished Canada by Richard Ford. But the coolest book for me, in terms of timing, was reading On The Road in Tucson, Arizona, where Kerouac drives from to reach San Francisco. I felt like I was with him! Where has seduced you?

Venice. I was taken for my 30th birthday because I'd never been before. When someone labels somewhere as romantic, you immediately think, "Oh, well it must be rubbish," but it was amazing. I went at the height of summer too, when everyone says don't go, and it was still beautiful. It took my breath away.

Worst travel experience?

When I first got to America, I got on the train from Salt Lake City to Arizona and fell asleep in my seat, only to wake at 3am in an empty carriage with a man hugging me. He said he was trying to keep me warm. I was terrified, but I didn't want to upset him, so I just got up and moved carriages.

Best hotel?

My husband [the actor Christian Contreras] and I drove up to Scotland and stumbled across one of the most amazing hotels by accident. We arrived on 30 December, where by chance they had a cancellation. So we stayed for three nights in The George Hotel, a pub on Loch Fyne in Inveraray, in a room with a log fire and we had the most lovely, unexpected time.

Favourite walk?

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand, past Lake Taupo. It's an eight-hour, full-day hike over volcanic mountains and sulphur pools. The landscape is extraordinary. At various times you feel as if you're in a desert, then you see lava and volcanic land, then you're walking through lush greenery. You can't believe the extreme changes in landscape and how beautiful it is.

Best road trip?

From New York to Wilmington in North Carolina. I did it over two days via the Outer Banks, a 200-mile string of barrier islands. The best thing about it was the Southern food. I don't understand how anyone can be thin living there. It was amazing, but utterly unhealthy.

Best meal abroad?

I was filming The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall in Jordan and four of us had a few days off, so we hired a bedouin guide, who took us across the Wadi Rum desert. We stayed in a camp and ate lamb and vegetables that had been cooked in the ground with hot stones. There are so many perks to being an actor and travelling is definitely one of them.

Favourite city?

San Francisco. I love the artistic, liberal, fun, young energy. It's also got great food and drinking dens, right on the edge of the wine region, so it's pretty much my ideal place.

Where next?

I'll be in New York over New Year, then we're going to drive up the East Coast to Boston to get some clam chowder. I also want to go to Iceland, so that's on the list for next year.

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